The Boneshakers’ Randy Jacobs: “Playing in the studio is cool, but playing in front of people is the magic... To me, that is everything”

Randy Jacobs
(Image credit: Doug Hardesty)

Guitarist Randy Jacobs found himself at a crossroads about 25 years ago. Since the early ’80s he was a member of the band Was (Not Was), and thanks to his work on projects produced by bandmate Don Was he became an in-demand session player, recording with artists like B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Seal and Tears For Fears. 

When Was decided to break up the band in the mid ’90s and focus exclusively on production, Jacobs faced a decision between pursuing session work or starting a new band.

Jacobs chose the latter, forming the Boneshakers with his Was (Not Was) bandmate singer Sweet Pea Atkinson. “(Studio guitarist) Michael Thompson asked if I was afraid about losing my place as a session player by going out on the road, but that’s who I am,” Jacobs says.

“Playing in the studio is cool, but playing in front of people is the magic. I love when I can feel that I’m raising them up from the beginning of a solo to the groove at the end of a song. To me, that is everything.”

In early 2022, Jacobs joined forces with blues singer Jenny Langer to record the latest Boneshakers album One Foot in the Groove. Recorded at Steve Lukather’s Steakhouse studio, the album features guest appearances by guitarist Coco Montoya, Rolling Stones background vocalist Bernard Fowler and the Texacali Horns. 

Highlights include Jacobs’ smoking slide on a soulful cover of the Stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together,” his Truth-inspired wah on Ain’t Got the Fever No More and the guitarist’s signature tasteful funk rhythm work on Mr. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”

The entire album was recorded live in the studio, with the band playing together in the main room while Langer sang from the vocal booth. 

“There’s no click track,” Jacobs adds. “That took me back. That’s the way we used to do everything back in the ’70s when I was with Michael Henderson. I did the whole record using just a Strymon Iridium instead of an amp. I’m taking the same approach when we play live, but I’m now using the UA Dream ’65, which can make even the crappiest rented amp sound good.

“Jenny really opened the door for me to go back and do what I really wanted to do, which is basically soul music with a little bit of rock, a whole lot of funk and a whole lot of blues,” Jacobs says. “There’s a lot of different styles, but the songs we chose work really well together. And Jenny is the real thing, which really inspires the whole band to dig deep and just groove.”

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.